'CIA helped draw up dodgy Iraq war dossier for No 10' - 06 September 2008


'CIA helped draw up dodgy Iraq war dossier for No 10'

Last updated at 23:55pm on 06.09.08

Secret advice from a foreign power, thought to be America, helped to shape the dossier that said Saddam Hussein could attack within 45 minutes and set out the case for war in Iraq.

MI6 chief John Scarlett, then chairman of the Government's Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), turned to the foreign country as final touches were put to the now discredited dossier, it has emerged.

The document, which the Government is accused of ‘sexing up’ in the weeks before it was made public, contained a string of claims that later proved false.

These included the warnings that Saddam could launch weapons of mass destruction ‘within 45 minutes’ and that it was ‘beyond doubt’ that he was developing nuclear weapons.

Both claims were the key to convincing the public and Parliament of the threat posed by Iraq and were essential to putting together the legal case for war.

Now it has been revealed that Mr Scarlett canvassed foreign help – which sources claim came from America's CIA – in the days before the dossier was published.

The disclosure is contained in the Government's arguments about why it cannot reveal further details of the discussions that led to the erroneous contents of the final document.

On September 16, 2002, a week before the dossier was published, Mr Scarlett sent members of the JIC a draft copy of the report.

In an accompanying note he wrote: ‘The text is still subject to further revision depending on your comments...’

But the rest of this key sentence was blacked out by Government censors when it was about to be made public by the Hutton Inquiry, the judicial probe into the affair.

Now the Government has told the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas that the second half of the sentence cannot be revealed because it would damage Britain's relations with a foreign state, making its disclosure exempt under the Freedom of Information Act.

This is the first direct admission by the Government that Mr Scarlett showed the draft to a foreign power and asked for its input as the JIC, which includes the heads of MI5, MI6 and the GCHQ spy centre, was giving its final approval to the report.

The disclosure came last week as Mr Thomas dismissed much of the rest of the Government's case that comments made by officials during the drafting process could not be revealed on national security grounds.

The move came after a three-year battle to make the comments public under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Government now has several weeks to release the material or make a further appeal to the Information Tribunal.

Mr Thomas has ordered the disclosure of material that could provide ‘evidence that the dossier was manipulated to present an exaggerated case’.

It has previously been revealed that Tony Blair’s spin-doctor Alastair Campbell suggested 11 changes to the draft which were all adopted.

The debate over the dossier led to a furious row between the Government and BBC after it reported that the material had been manipulated.

Government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly killed himself after being named as the source of quotes used by then BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan claiming the Government had ‘sexed up’ the dossier. This led to the setting up of the Hutton Inquiry, which cleared the Government while the BBC was strongly criticised, leading to the resignation of the BBC’s chairman and director-general.

A book by journalist Bob Woodward, who helped expose the Watergate scandal, says the CIA warned Britain against using the ‘45-minute’ claim.

Then CIA Director George Tenet referred to it as the ‘they-can-attack-in-45-minutes s***’.

He believed the source for MI6's claim was questionable. He also assumed, correctly, that the claim was misleading because it referred to battlefield munitions, not ballistic missiles.

"relations with a foreign state"

Reminds me of this...

"The judge who issued that ruling, Reggie B. Walton of Federal District Court, had said he was satisfied with government statements that the suit could expose intelligence-gathering methods and disrupt diplomatic relations."

Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?